Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Electrical System ->Distributor
Question from Rob:
When your replacing the pickup coil/magnet in the distributor do you really have to take the whole distributor out? The FSM says to pull the distributor. I've done this dozens of times on FWD Mopars on the car, but their distributors are right up front. This thing is a pain all set back there. Any tips?
Take it out. Chuck it up in a vise, and pry the reluctor off from the shaft (grip the distributor underneath that little plastic bushing at the bottom of the housing, - very easy to break otherwise, and a PIA to get one and replace it.
You need to have access around the dist to get the "breaker plate" screws out.
You could certainly replace the pick-up coil with-out removing the distributor but it would be alot easier with the distributor removed. The pick-up coil is fastened to the plate on these and the vacuum advance has to come off. You also have to remove the reluctor which would come off a lot simpler on the bench. These distributors will only go in two ways so if you watch the direction the rotor is pointing and mark the housing, you wouldn't even have to reset the timing, although I'd have it checked as soon as possible after replacement.
If this is an EFI car, it does not have a vacuum advance unit. It is quite possible to change this coil without removing the distributor, but you need to be blessed with long arms and excellent eyesight. You have to adjust the reluctor clearance after this repair, and this is much easier done with the distributor on the bench. Be sure to mark the locating before removing it, or be prepared to readjust the timing to spec after the repair.
Question from Johan:
My distributor rotor always wiggled left and right about a quarter of an inch. Is this normal?
The rotor is on a shaft which is free to rotate a small amount as the centrifugal advance weights swing out at higher RPMS. If you take out the breaker plate and look, you can see this mechanism. There should be two fly weights, held in by a couple of springs, and a cam mechanism to advance the rotor shaft when the weights are extended. If you are remarking about the ability to rotate the rotor, and if it returns to the same point every time when you release it, there is no problem, relax.
If, on the other hand, you can make it stay rotated when you advance it, your advance mechanism needs service.
Lastly, If you are talking about being able to move the rotor sideways (not in pure rotation), you've got a badly worn out distributor - I'm amazed the car will run that way. The top bearings are totally shot!
Years ago the distributor in my '56 Imperial became so worn that the rotor scrapped the inside of the distributor cap. It rained little flakes of brass down over the points, which finally must have arced and killed the ignition. When it quit, one of the first things that I did was open the distributor and discover that problem. Once I replaced it, the car started and ran fine.
On my '62, I bent the distributor shaft, so that the top of the whole thing wobbled. Wouldn't stay in tune for heck, until we figured out what'd happened and replaced it.
Question from Roger:
Ayone with knowledge of Chrysler/Prestolite distributor interchange or Pertronic electronic ignitions?
Reply from Dave:
I used the Pertronic system in a '66 Mustang with the 200 straight six and it was easy to install was fairly inexpensive and worked great. Fuel milage went up and I didn't have to change points any more and the best part was every thing looked stock. I'd use them again if I needed to.
Question from Roy:
Can anyone tell me what color original distributor caps were on pre- electronic distributors and maybe the part number?
I believe the distributors in this area were one of two brands, Prestolite and Essex. They were assembled by Chrysler and part numbers vary by year. They both used black caps but many after market caps were beige. Either would be correct. I don't have the part number handy, but any Mopar dealer should be able to still have them.
Do exactly what Ron recommends. I've done the same thing on other Mopars and it made a big, big, positive difference.
Question from Chris:
Does anyone know if a 440 electronic distributor will fit into the 413? Both engines are RB, or raised block, so I know the length should be the same....but my main concern is if the distributor housing will fit the block opening and seal properly. Long story short, I want to convert my 1960 Crown 413 over to a brand new electronic 440 conversion. I've absolutely had it with points and worn out old distributor bearings.
It will fit just fine. However, you will need to adjust the vacuum advance back to its minimum setting. 440 emissions distributors have vacuum advances that give about double the advance of 413's. The result is violent pinging when timing is set to 1960 specs. Fortunately, the Mopar electronic retrofit kits have adjustable vacuum advances that can be cranked back pretty close to 1960 settings.
Yes, - it will fit (and function).
Question from Robb:
I had my dwell meter hooked up and without readjusting the points after I had turned the distributor, the dwell had changed. If you say it's not supposed to happen I'm wondering how it did happen?
Dwell is actually the amount of degrees of rotation in which the points remain closed. This should be fairly consistent, no matter what the timing is at. This is from idle up to about 1500 rpm. Over 1500 doesn't necessarily indicate any problem with the distributor. You should not have more than a 2 degree difference as you move from idle to 1500 rpm. For reference I will use my 66-440 specs here. This will vary from some other years but will be good for most pre electronic ignition RB engines. Ideal dwell is 30 degrees and gap is .017. You can have a variation from 28-32 degrees on the dwell and .014-.019. If your dwell angle is varying more than the 2 degrees on this test, you may have worn distributor cam lobes, contact block or the contact points are not installed properly or are wrong or bad. In thinking this through, the distributor will rotate the same no matter how far it is advanced or retarded. It still will make a 360degree rotation and the points should open and close the same.
I might not have your picture right, but when you set the point gap, you do it when the point rubbing block is on the high spot of the cam lobe. The point set is mounted to the distributor plate. If after the setting, you rotate the distributor housing, the gap will change and become smaller, then get bigger as you rotate further up to the next high point. The relationship between the point gap and dwell angle is the ratio of two to one; a change of one thousandth in the gap will cause a 2 degree change in the dwell angle. What you see on the dwell meter is this dwell angle and the speed is such that it appears as a fixed quantity, but it is really rising and falling as it turns. To prevent premature failure of the points, they are made of tungsten and then a capacitor is added to further prolong life because the ability to "jump the gap" is reduced, hence the burning is reduced. And as you know, the dwell is set first, then the timing is set second - in that order because we also now know when number one should fire and then adjust to meet the spec. Sounds to me like you are doing everything right. If you know the GM procedure, you can set the dwell with the engine running to get the optimum point gap; when that is set. you loosen the screw and rotate the distributor to get the timing right.
It is a mystery to me. The point dwell (percentage of time that the points are closed during a rotation of the cam) should be unaffected by the rotational position of the distributor. If yours changed, there is something loose or worn inside the distributor, probably the breaker plate is loose and moves when you change the position of the vacuum advance line, or something obscure like that is going on. It could be the top bushing of the distributor shaft is worn and allowing the shaft to move sideways when the rotational position is changed, thus putting gravity against a different portion of the bushing.
Question from Remco (1957):
I changed the distributor on my '57. My old one had no mechanical or vacuum advance. Within one hour I had the hold-down plate out and I installed my new distributor, new plugs, new wires, new rotor and cap, and a new coil. I put the new cables on exactly the same as the old ones came off. I set the distributor and started my car. It runs good so I try to set the timing. NO timing mark is in sight. I try to adjust the distributor and the engine almost stalls before I could see the last timing mark. When I adjust it by ear, there are no marks in sight. What am I dooing wrong???
I think best option is not to use timing light any more and don't bother about is. The car runs fine but I would like to know what I did wrong.
Check to be sure the timing light pickup is on the #1,left front, plug wire, if it is already then the harmonic damper has slipped.
Make sure that your timing light is hooked up to the #1 cylinder. It is the front left cylinder.
You must remove the vacuum line from the distributor while timing, or it will not time right.
Question from Kerry (1957):
I am going to be needing a distributor for the 440 that will go in my 57. Are all Mopar 8 cylinder HEIs the same?
All big block distributors are not the same-avoid the lean-burn distributor. Its easy to tell the difference lean burn distributors have no vacuum advance on them. Big block distributors are different from small blocks. Mopar performance sells new ones (with adjustable vacuum advance-hi performance advance curve, cap&rotor) Part#DCC3690432(413-426W-440,426H)
All the hipo books list only one Mopar distributor for the rb 413-440... DCC-3690428 is the Mopar Performance ie conversion package, which includes everything you'll need and promises a hotter spark and performance advance curve. Only $143.95 from Summit Racing, and very available from many other sources, I'm sure... Having installed one of these kits in my '81 (post efi) I can vouch for their ease of installation.....
Question from Jeff (1958):
I am writing for info/advice for my brothers '58 392 Hemi which has been ill for a couple of weeks. Well, we tracked down the problem tonight and there is at least one broken wire inside the distributor, and there were broken pieces of black plastic inside the distributor which we took out. Overall the inside of the distributor looks kind of sick. Sooo.... We have heard from some that we should get an electronic ignition conversion for it and dump the old distributor innards. We have also heard that the 392 hemi-dual point distributor is a wonderful unit and should be fine. We have also heard that there is currently no electronic conversion for the dual point distributor. What should we do???? Get this one repaired or replaced or is there an electronic one available for less then an arm and a leg. As always we value your advice and eagerly await your recommendations.
In my opinion, I would go to the electronic ignition. Call Year One (800-YEAR-ONE) and ask for one of there tech advisors. I'm sure they can set you up for around $150.00. If you are looking for a Concourse restoration, you may want to have yours rebuilt/replaced. A used replacement will most likely have to be refurbished also, however. I may have some names of distributor rebuilders at home, if you need them. Once you have tried the electronic ignition I'm sure you will very happy. The one you should get is the authentic MOPAR orange box!
Mopar Performance (MP) has a electronic ignition conversion kits (distributor, control box, ballast resistor, harness). My '94 MP catalog lists p/n P3690428 ($164.00 list) for the "413-426W-440 and 426 Hemi". I'm not sure about the 392 application but you can call the MP tech line on 1-810-853-7290 to check. Your local Chrysler dealer should be able to order if not in stock. I'm been thinking about tossing the dual point distributors in my '59's in favor of the above. Anyone done this and has pros/cons to share?
Question from Rex (1959):
I see that the 1959 has been really bad for burning up points. I have installed four sets of points in my '59 in little over a year! Even at that, it has been almost impossible to eliminate the spark knocking on initial acceleration completely. Could there be some specific problem with the '59's? I ask because I have a '60 and '61, and neither of these cars has ever given me a problem with spark knock, points slipping or burning, etc.
There is probably something wrong with the ignition on your car. A set of points should last about 10,000 miles, maybe 15,000. I doubt that you are putting that many miles on your car in one year. If you were, that would mean that the points were lasting only around 2,000 miles. If you are actually only driving your Imperial about 5,000 per year, you are getting about 1,000 miles from your point set. That is not right.
Points will burn prematurely if the condenser is bad. I also think a bad ignition resistor could do this.
Another cause that would have nothing to do with the car itself would be that the points are not clean when they are installed. This type of damage could result if the contacts were touched by fingers prior to installing them. It is doubtful that four sets of points have all been dirty, though, so there probably is an ignition problem.
Your spark knocking could be related, but may also be a result of the points burning. Fuel issues can also cause spark knocking, such as a lean mixture, or weak fuel pump.
I am sure that there will be many more ideas put forth, but one thing for sure, '59 Imperials did not have inherent ignition problems, and your points should last much longer.
I once had a car that seemed to burn points too frequntly. It turned out that there was something wrong with the ignition switch. I have a habit of playing the car radio when I wash the car, work in the yard, or sometimes when I am just sitting outside reading.
In this particular car, when the ignition switch was in the accessory position, juice was still going through the ignition. This will burn the points up quickly.
I also had a shop do this to one of my cars when they left the ignition switch in the "ON" position all day while working on the car.
Although I am one of the few who does not have much nice to say about retrofitting an electonic ignition, at least it would cure your burned point problem. (And hopefully not result in a new set of problems like I experienced.)
I tossed my electronic system and got rid of all my ignition problems when I went back to my original distributor with a new vacuum advance installed. Regarding your pinging problem, the '59-'66 engine uses very advanced initial timing (10-12 degrees BTDC depending on the year). As a result, it only tolerates very little vacuum advance. Over time, these spring loaded vacuum advance devices start to weaken. This causes excessive, premature advance, which causes pinging under light load situations. A correct replacement vacuum advance should cure that. (They appear on Ebay periodically.)
Some advice should you decide to buy an electronic system: It will be designed for later, emission-controlled engines. These later engines had initial timing retarded as much as 15 degrees from the '59-'66 settings, and used lots of vacuum advance to compensate. These electronic systems can be made to work with earlier engines, but you have to read the fine print and learn how to adjust the vacuum advance to its lowest setting. You should get good results if you do. (At least until the electonic brain has an aneurism. Tip: always carry a spare.)
Regarding your current point burning situation, do you have the correct ballast resistor for a point-style distributor?
Question from John(1961):I tuned up our '61 Imperial today, but ran into a dilemma when I finished. The car now won't start. I'm not sure if I got a spark plug wire in the wrong place or what, but really need some quick help with this problem. I have to park the car in front of our house on the street, but this Thursday the car has to be moved for street sweeping. If not, I'll get a ticket..I know the spark plug set up on the 413 is (left) 1,3,5,7 and the (right) is 2,4,6,8. My question is the left the driver's side?? Also does anybody have the wire placement on the distributor cap itself starting the 12:00 position and going clockwise with the wires?? The car cranks, but now it doesn't start. I put a set of Champion RJ12YC plugs in the car. The originals were RJ10YC plugs..
First we need to determine if the distributor is clocked right to the camshaft. As you are probably aware, the engine turns two revolutions for each revolution of the distributor. Thus putting the distributor back by simply lining up the timing mark with the pointer and dropping it in so the rotor points at #1 plug wire gives you a 50-50 chance of getting it exactly backwards! Spitting back through the carburetor when you prime it means that a spark plug is being fired when an intake valve is open, so I'm betting you are 180 degrees off with the distributor. Don't get mad now, this happens to all of us!
Forget all about trying to start the engine for now, in fact, pull the ignition wire to the + terminal of the coil loose, so you won't get your eyebrows singed!
Then, take #1 spark plug out (on a 352, this is the front plug on the PASSENGER'S side). Put your compression gauge in the plug hole, or if you don't have one, get someone to put his or her finger over the plug hole, while you manually turn the crankshaft in a clockwise direction until pressure starts to build up in the #1 cylinder. The crank will be hard to turn, but do it by hand (put a long wrench on the crank pulley bolt) or you will miss the pressure pulse for sure.
When the helper or the gauge starts to detect pressure building up, stop right there and look at the timing pointer. Now, slowly move the crank in a clockwise direction (from the front of the engine) until the pointer is exactly on the top dead center mark on the pulley. Now, without moving anything, look at the rotor in the distributor, and determine which plug wire hole it is pointing at. If it is pointing at #6 (the 3rd cylinder back on the DRIVER'S side), you have the distributor in backwards. If it is pointing at the #1 plug, you have it in correctly.
If it is close but not exactly on the #1 plug wire hole, you may be able to adjust the distributor to make it run OK by rotating the distributor while you watch the points open. The right setting (or close enough to run the engine until you can get a timing light on it) is when the points just barely start to open when the crank is where we just left it.
Once you have determined that all is shipshape there, probably the engine will start up and run for a few seconds each time you put a few squirts of gas down it's maw. Don't over do this, we don't want to wash all that oil off the cylinder walls. The safe way to do this is to put the air cleaner back on loose; leave the wing nut loose a few turns and prime the engine by putting small amounts of gas in the depression in the center of the air cleaner lid (if it has one). The gas will run down the center screw and get to where you want it to go, and you won't have to worry about any flash back from the carburetor.
Don't forget to hook up the ignition wire!
If after running the engine for a minute or so total this way, the fuel pump still won't pick up and start pumping the fuel from the tank, you may have to take the fuel line loose from the carburetor, and using a small squirt bottle or oil can, pump the carburetor float chamber full of gas, then reconnect the line and let the engine run until the pump finally catches its prime and starts pumping on it's own. If it absolutely won't run on it's own, you must have a pinhole leak in the line from the tank, or a weak fuel pump. Get a pressure gauge on it, and see if you are getting 3 to 5 PSI out of it. If so, let it pump gas into a coffee can while the engine is running (fill the carb with your squirt bottle again and start the engine), to see how much gas it will pump in 15 seconds. It should about fill the coffee can in 15 seconds. If it doesn't, it's fuel pump time, sorry.
The firing order for your 413 is 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2. This should be the order of the spark plug wires on the cap going COUNTER-clockwise. The cylinders are numbered: 1-3-5-7, from front to back on the DRIVER's side and 2-4-6-8, from front to back on the PASSENGER's side. What all did you do on your tune-up besides change the plugs? Did you change all the plug wires (and, if so, all at the same time)? How about points, rotor, cap, condenser? Did you set the timing at all (i.e., rotate the distributor)? I guess I would suggest first locating the #1 plug wire on the distributor cap, and trace the rest from there going counter-clockwise to make sure the relative order is correct. If it is, and you changed all the wires at the same time, then it's possible that they're all off by one position, in which case you need to rotate the engine until #1 cylinder is at top dead center (TDC) on the firing stroke, remove the distributor cap, and make sure that the rotor is pointing close to the terminal where the #1 plug wire is attached. Write back if you think this might be your problem and you need clarification, such as how to find top dead center, or if you have any other questions about other possible causes.
Follow-up question from John:Yesterday I ended up changing the plugs and all of the wires. I didn't due to the points. I bought the wires at Napa, but when I got home I didn't realize they were the kind you have to make..I had never made wires before, so I took an old wire off of the car and took it apart to figure out how to make the plug wires properly.I did each wire, one at a time and checked them 3 times when I finished.My question is, when you are on the passenger side of the car looking at the distributor cap, and starting at the 12:00 position and going clockwise from twelve, what is the order of the plug wires on the distributor cap itself?? What position is number one at on this cap?? I didn't see any number 1 marked on the cap.. I think if I have any wires off at all, it may be two..I also need to know is the number 1 plug at the very front of the driver's side of the motor...When you turn the car over, it cranks and kind of has a puffing sound coming out of the carb..I never set any timing on the car or did anything other than changing the distributor cap, rotor, plugs, and wires...My other problem is I don't have any gauge to tell me when the number 1 plug is where it should be..
Reply from Roger:THERE IS NO 12:00 POSITION. If you line up the word "front" in the diagram below you will see the relative positions. Between #8 and #4 and between #7 and #5 are the clips.F 1 2R 8 70 4 5N 3 6T
Reply from Mike:
There are numerous ways to go about finding out where your plug wires need to go, it's probably simpler to give you an illustration--go here for an illustration showing the orientation of plug wires into the distributor cap.
Question from Denis (1962):
I am having a problem with my 62 LeBaron. I can't seen to get it to time properly, even changed out the Electronic distributor, and still pings like mad when hot. Any advise??
Reply from PEN:
What is happening is that the harmonic balancer has slipped on its rubber sleeve. Because of time. You may replace it, or you may time the car by road testing it, which is what I do. Since the harmonic balancer has the timing marks on it, and since it has slipped, using a timing light doesn't work any longer. To time the engine by road testing, first start by getting the best idle: loosen the distributor nut with a half inch distributor wrench, and while leaving the advance vacuum line on gently tap on the exterior of the vacuum advance diaphragm housing with your choice of tools until you get the best idle speed, back or forth. Tighten down the distributor nut there for the time being. To do the road test, the car has to be fully warmed up, loaded with Premium gas, and you need at least a couple of miles of vacant roadway. Take your tools with you. Accell up to 40 mph. If there is any ping, stop and release the distributor and tap it slightly counter-clockwise and tighten again. The procedure is to get up to 35 or 40 mph and then floorboard the accelerator, measuring the time that the engine pings after being kicked down into second gear wide open. If the engine is correctly timed, you should hear some pinging for about a second and then none. None at all, advance the timing by tapping the distributor clockwise and try again. Too much, retard the timing by tapping the distributor counterclockwise very slightly. I got all this from a Chrysler dealer who has been in the business dating from the '20s. It has worked for me. There are some who believe that any pinging at all is outrageous, but the three or four pings I get when I floorboard my '62 tells me that the timing is right where I want it.
Question from Brian (1964):
Well, I found out why my '64 convertible will not start. The distributor shaft broke just above the gears. Has anyone experienced a similar problem with a Chrysler 413? Can you get to the gear by removing the water pump and timing chain/sprocket or do you need to pull the intake manifold? Are new distributors available, and if so, any suggestions on where to buy it.
The old Chrysler distributors had an oil hole and cap to manually lubricate the distributor shaft bushing. That design was updated in the later 1960s so that oil would wick up into the bushing by itself. I got a new distributor for my 62 from Chrysler in the late 70s, and it was the automatically lubricating kind. Any more, I think it is best to get the pointless ignition retrofit distributor kit from Chrysler, and a solid state voltage regulator to go with it. The distributor gear does not need to come out, the broken piece of the shaft does. Perhaps a magnet might get it out of the hole. Otherwise the intake manifold and turkey pan will have to come off.
Just pull the intake. Are you sure you mean the "distributor shaft" and not the oil pump/distributor gear shaft? It's much more common to break one of these. If your shaft broke in two clean pieces, I would try to fish out the other piece with a magnet before I took the intake off.
> Are new distributors available, and if so, any suggestions on where to buy it.
Yes, you could either get a new distributor (electronic) or rebuild yours with pieces from another points-style RB distributor. It's pretty uncommon to break the actual shaft, since it isn't stressed that much, so I wouldn't hesitate to use an old one. If you go electronic, I'd recommend buying form Mancini racing in Fraser, MI. (aka Detroit Performance)
From DB Kemper:
That should be the same distributor that us used in other Chrysler B and RB blocks.........it is a slot on the end of the shaft that fits into the gear.....you should be able to get the broken piece out and get a new distributor at any auto parts store......I got one for a 440 with points at Pep Boys........
Question from Ray (1970):
This is the problem, and this is what I've done so far. Problem: The coil does not produce a spark whatsoever. When I point the coil wire to a piece of metal, nothing comes out. The condenser doesn't shock me either when I touch it, so it's not storing electricity. The main cause, it's been sitting since 1993. and some squirrels have lived in it, squirrels who have a particular affinity for pecans.
What I've done so far: Put in the battery out of my Fury, a diehard series 24. Car didn't turn over Put in a new starter relay, car didn't turn over. Put in my spare starter, car doesn't turn over. Throw out positive battery cable, build new one, car turns over, doesn't start. Installed new voltage regulator, borg warner electronic style. Old one was rusty. Installed ballast resistor from Fury, put the one on the Imperial in the Fury, Fury starts, Imperial doesn't. Put on spare Borg Warner coil. No spark. Put on spare VW Bug BOSCH blue coil, known good. No spark. Put on Fury's coil, still no spark. Broke condenser wire off. Bought a new one, no spark. Put condenser on negative terminal, just like the Fury, no spark. Put Fury's condenser, no spark. now suspect ignition switch. Put remote starter on, bypass switch, nothing. Now I'm mad, assaulted convenient tree with BFH. I have no way of telling how the timing is, because I'm not getting anything out of the coil. I got a hold of a diagram from a '70 Imperial FSM. This thing does not show a condenser on it. It shows a thing called a "Distributor solenoid", and a thing called a "carburetor solenoid". My carb appears to be an AFB, which isn't stock. I do have the blue wire that attaches to it, it had a melted plastic connector, but nothing to hook into. Anyone have any idea what this means?
First of all, I think the solenoids you are referring to may be for a CAP or lean burn option. Not going to be the problem. The condenser you are referring to is the one outside the distributor which won't be the problem here. We need to pull the cap off the distributor. That is most likely the source of the problem. I would replace the whole package, points, condenser, rotor and distributor cap. Talking less than $20.00 to do this. Set the gap at approximately .018. I would lay down a small wager, it will fire! If the car has sat that long, and the points may have been closed at the time they have corroded or rusted. You are not going to get fire form the coil with defective points. These are things you would want to do anyway even if it was running but like I said, I think you will have some progress.
I have to agree with Bill here. In cases like yours, its usually the distributor. The term "carburetor solenoid" to me means "idle solenoid", which would tend to make me think, like Bill said, either California emissions, or part of a lean burn set up. If the those solenoids are part of a lean burn set up, the carb would be a late '70's Thermoquad not an AFB. AFB's as far as I know came with mechanical chokes, in the late 70's all car manufacturers were switching to electric chokes and idle solenoids. If for some reason you had a late' 70's Thermoquad from a 400 v8 plopped on top of a '70 manifold, there wouldn't be anything for it to hook up to. So anyway, another approach is if you're not real keen on putting in points.
Question from TJ (1971):
I am going to need to replace / rebuild the distributor on my '71 LeBaron. Any thoughts as to converting from single point to dual point?
WHY USE EITHER? Mopar/direct connection sells a complete electronic conversion that comes with everything you need including a complete new distributor, for the same $$$ as low tech points.
Do exactly what Ron recommends. I've done the same thing on other Mopars and it made a big, big, positive difference.
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